TED Conversations

Lindsay Newland Bowker


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What are the limits of sovereignty? Are we clear on international norms?

Present debate on what to do about Syrias use of chemical weapons on rebels/government opponents takes us back to the broader issue of the limits of sovereignty. It seems apparent that we don't have shared global values on a country's interior use of chemical weapons or what to do about it even though this ostensibly has been a matter of global consensus since the end of World War II. .What action is justified and is it ok for anyone nation to act alone without a global consensus on the basis of "protecting its national interests"?

(I will add links to several TED convesrations we have had in the past on global values and global governance)


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    Sep 7 2013: Two interesting notes with reference to our conversation here. A major U.S. Senator today said, more or less, we don't use the military to enforce some vague imagined international values."

    The phrase "imagined" international values struck me.

    And this film also struck me as we have pointed to clarity and transparency in documenting many incident that we might all agree warrants intervention. Like the Belfast Nobel prize winner, Mother Marian el-Salib does not believe the chemical attack footage is real.

    She also says that one of the many disorganized rebel factions is even more violent than Assad and has commitmet brutal atrocties on innocents in recent months without impunity or even a mention by anyone.

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/news/footage_of_chemical_attack_in_syria_is_fraud/MA: Everyone in Syria is facing grave danger. There was a case of Muslim religious leaders being kidnapped and beheaded. They were humiliated and tortured. Ismailis, the druze, Christians – people from all parts of Syrian society – are being mass murdered. I would like to say that if these butchers didn’t have international support, no one would have dared to cross the line. But today, unfortunately, the violation of human rights and genocide in Syria is covered up on the international level. I demand the international community stops assessing the situation in Syria in accordance with the interests of a certain group of great powers. "

    Mother Agnes Mariam el -Salib
    • Sep 7 2013: The word on the militias has some truth to it.
      They're a very diverse group, with everything from the most moderate of secularists to religious and nationalist fanatics. And yes, some of them do things just as bad as Assad, except use of chemical weapons, simply because they don't have access to those.

      The common consensus seems to be that once (and if) Assad goes, the militias turn on each other, like what happened in Afghanistan when the Soviets pulled out. The faster we can get to this stage, the shorter the war will be, but taking down Assad's regime will by no means end the war instantaneously.
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        Sep 7 2013: so even if there were truth to the use of chemical weapons, military intervention or ousting Assad would achieve nothing for the Syrian people and nothing for global interests?
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          Sep 8 2013: Exactly, ousting Assad would only bring chaos to Syria,and turning-around of global financial recover.
        • Sep 8 2013: I wouldn't say that.
          The militias need to fight it out for the war to end. The militias can only begin to fight it out once Assad is out of the picture.

          Its bound to get worse before it gets better, which means that it needs to get worse if Syria is ever to recover (as a region, not as a country--again, its not staying in one piece).
          That requires putting Assad's regime in the ground first.
          If Assad doesn't go, this war will plain and simple never end. Syria will just deteriorate into a perpetual state of civil war which can last for years and years.

          Think of it as chemo-therapy to treat cancer. The side effects may well hurt more than the actual illness at first, but will ultimately improve the situation.

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